The Digger concludes the story of the Ballymacbrennan murder
by recounting the execution of John Logue.
|The gatelodge of the 'New Jail' at Downpatrick. The jail was demolished in 1933 and Down High School now occupies the site.|
JOHN Logue was indicted on Thursday 15th March 1866 for the murder of ten year old Thomas Graham at Ballymacbrennan. He appeared before the Rt. Hon Baron Fitzgerald at Downpatrick Crown Court.
The following day, after the defence and the crown had presented their cases, the jury, under the foreman Thomas Lithgow, retired at 3.30ppm. They returned with a verdict of guilty. It was reported by the local press the Clerk of the Crown addressed the guilty man - "John Logue you stood indicted for the murder of Thomas Graham. To that indictment you pleaded not guilty and threw yourself on God and your country, and that country has found you guilty. What have you to say now the sentence of death and execution should not be awarded against you according to law?" Logue replied "1 have nothing to say."
The Judge then addressed the prisoner. "Let me implore you to spend the short time you have in this world in preparation for standing before the bar before which you and I and all of us must stand, and at which your only claim must be that which is still open to you - the mercy of your Maker, through His Son."
In the customary manner the Judge donned the black cap and said: "Your sentence is that you be taken from the place where you now stand to the jail, and from that to the place of execution - the gallows - there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead. Your body is to be interred within the precincts of the jail in which you were till your conviction; and may Almighty God have mercy upon your soul!"
The Belfast Newsletter reporter commented: "His Lordship was deeply affected during the delivery of this sentence."
That was in stark contrast to John Logue's reaction. It was noted he was removed smiling. He was brought back into the dock and told by the Judge that the day of execution was to be Thursday 19th April, 1866. John Logue was then removed to. Downpatrick Jail. In 1866 the jail, referred to as the "new jail", was located when the present Down High School is. The old jail, now Down County Museum, had closed in 1830.
It was reported that before his trial John Logue had attempted to escape from prison. He had used a piece of gas pipe and during the hours of darkness started to tunnel through the wall of his cell. It was discovered and he was placed in more secure lodgings.
It was also reported that a few days after the death sentence was passed the inhabitants of Downpatrick were determined to intervene and have the guilty party reprieved, as they believed a public execution would bring disgrace to the town.
A memorial was forwarded to the Lord Lieutenant requesting a reduction in sentence based on the grounds of insufficient evidence. A reply was received from the. Under Secretary by the Rev. F.C. Willis, Curate of Down and an acting chaplain of the jail.
"Having given the case the fullest consideration his Excellency felt it to be his painful duty to leave the law to take its course."
The Irish Executive was also lobbied by the memorialists urging for a respite for Logue until the question of capital punishment was brought before Parliament. Prayers were said at Sunday worship in Downpatrick for a suspension in execution. John Logue himself also wrote two letters to the Lord Lieutenant, but all efforts were to fail.
John Logue received a number of visitors whilst in jail. Amongst those were the Rev. F. C.Willis, Rev. Douglas a Methodist minister and John Logue's brother, aunt and sister.
John Logue insisted he was not the murderer. It had been suggested to him that "sinners should endeavour to rid of their sins before leaving this world" to which it was reported that he replied "There is no doubt of that, but I'm not the murderer." He did admit to his participation in the arson and robberies.
On Wednesday 18th April 1866, the evening before his execution, he was reported to be nervous, quivering and perspiring and was frequently on his knees in prayer. He partook of communion, administered in his cell by the Rev. Willis.
Outside, the scaffold was being placed above the main entrance to the jail, approached by a narrow flight of stairs. The execution was set for the following morning at 8am.
John Logue requested the Rev. Willis visit him at 1am. The minister remained in the jail that evening should his services be required.
John Logue rose at 6.30am and breakfasted and prayed with the ministers present. That morning was described as wet and stormy. At 7.40am he was brought by three warders, known as "turnkeys", from his cell along the walk to the porch over which the scaffold was erected.
The sight of the scaffold would have been familiar to John Logue. He claimed to have had first hand experience of seeing an execution being carried out on the 20th July 1865 when a man by the name of Kilkenny was hung at Kilmainham jail.
On the morning of his own execution he was dressed in a Glengarry cap, a worn dark frock coat, and a pair of faded dark trousers. He had a moustache and beard.
A procession formed at the bottom of the staircase and a service was read by the Dean of Down. The procession included the Sub-Sheriff Mr. Hutchinson Boyd, the Governor of the jail Mr Echlin and Dr. McConky.
John Logue's hands were tied behind his back. He was described as "having absolute coolness without a trace of either bravado or emotion" as he walked up the ladder to the leads.
The executioner, who was reported to be from Wexford, placed a white cloth on his head. He asked the condemned man if he had anything to say. "No, no" came the reply. The executioner pulled the white cloth over his face and John Logue moved onto the drop.
The knot was adjusted and the hangman asked twice from the Sheriff permission to continue. That permission led to the bolt being drawn and John Logue fell fourteen feet. His body was cut down after having being suspended for an hour, and then buried in the grounds of the prison.
It was estimated there were approximately 300 - 400 people watching, some of them women and children. The inclement weather appeared to have had some effect on keeping the crowd numbers lower than expected. The Governor of Downpatrick Jail registered the death of John Logue, a bachelor, 20 years, labourer on the 1st June 1866.
The father of John Logue's victim, George Graham was believed to have died in May 1890. The farm was sold to Francis Abbott from Crossan. George Graham's daughters relocated to another property close by.
A coincidental footnote to the story of John Logue was related to me recently. I was speaking to a lady who recalled a visit to her school sometime during the beginning of the 2nd World War.
The class were due to receive a series of first aid lessons, something that was considered a necessity during that troubled period.
To the amusement of some and the horror of others a gentleman entered the classroom nailing behind him a full size anatomical skeleton. "This," he announced "was the last man to be haned at Downpatrick Jail - John Logue!"
Of course, there was probably no truth to the claim, but there is a strange coincidental conclusion to the story. The lady who recalled that experience to me, would in later life, come to reside in the actual farmhouse where young Thomas Graham had been fatally shot by John Logue over one hundred years earlier.
She and her husband had purchased the farm without having known its "morbid history!"
The Digger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting The Ulster Star office.